The Benefits of Pilates Training for Players of Racket Sports
Pilates training, says the writer Martin Amis, who does it twice a week, is the reason that he no longer groans when playing tennis. While Andy Murray also states that Pilates is a vital part of his fitness and injury-prevention regime.
“I started doing Pilates a few weeks ago, which I think has already helped. I did three or four Pilates sessions and my body feels good compared to the last few years when I’ve come here. So hopefully I’ll be good to go for the next two weeks.”
– Andy Murray, The Independent
A growing number of tennis and squash players at every level practise Pilates. They utilise their Pilates training for a range of issues. Issues such as: injury prevention and recovery, rectifying muscle imbalance, to improving flexibility and building core and stabilizer muscles.
Professional Tennis Players Use Pilates Training
It is no secret that many well-known tennis player use Pilates. Players such as Serena and Venus Williams and Martina Navratilova. Navratilova may now be retired, but she says that Pilates has helped her body regain the flexibility of her prime. Pat Cash, the former Wimbledon champion, still does Pilates training as a key part of his fitness routine.
Pilates Helps Squash Players Too..
The Squash Player magazine, meanwhile, recently featured a full Pilates programme for squash.
How Does Pilates Help Racket Sports Players Exactly?
Racket sports are by their nature one-sided. Most players repeatedly use the same hand and arm to hit the ball, generally in the same direction. Typically they do this with their head and neck usually adopting the same position in anticipation of playing a shot. Such pronounced left- or right-sided movements load stress on the structure of the body. This produces a physique that is out of balance and thus is more liable to break down with over-use injuries particularly prevalent.
Further problems can result from the fact that few tennis players have a bio-mechanically perfect serve. Repetitive, inefficient patterns of movement combined with the quest for power give rise to problems in the collection of joints that make up the shoulder. ‘Tennis elbow’, or inflammation of the muscle tissue and ligaments at the base of the elbow, is caused by chronic twisting of the arm plus repeated shocks to a small bony ridge on the outer elbow.
While even the best Pilates instructor may not help you serve like Serena Williams or Roger Federer, a programme of specific exercises will work the body more uniformly to prevent over development of one side. It will also strengthen the deep abdominal muscles needed for a stable base from which to hit that winning shot. Addressing flexibility through the shoulders and upper back while lengthening the tighter front muscles of the torso will boost your power and range of motion – and make it easier to reach for that drop shot at the net.